Grace Carter: ‘I’m a 40 Greek Street girl’
Following her Sunset Session show at White City House, we caught up with the London-based singer to talk new music, fresh starts and why she loves being a member
Friday 4 August 2023 By Kathleen Johnston
When Grace Carter was 21, she found herself ranked third on the BBC Sound Of 2019 poll, earning a buzzy reputation as one of Britain’s most striking young voices and a timeless icon in the making. It was announced just one month after that she’d released her debut EP, Why Her Not Me, and the London-born singer-songwriter was catapulted to global fame. Tours with Jorja Smith and Lewis Capaldi followed, as well as top-draw festival bookings and a slew of successful single releases under her then-label Polydor, with brands such as Cartier lining up to book her.
On the surface, it looked like Carter was living every artist’s wildest dream. Behind the scenes, though, the sparkling success was taking its toll, eroding her sense of self to such an extent that by the time the pandemic hit, she’d lost herself completely. The reasons for this were multifarious, Carter explains from a sofa on the eighth floor of White City House, following her Sunset Session show on the west London rooftop. But, essentially, it came down to the often-toxic nature of the industry and the deeply personal subject matter of her songs.
‘My whole career was based on the fact that I was a secret child for 20 years. It was very much trauma-spilling every day, in interviews, on stage, everything,’ she says, referring to her relationship with her father, who was absent from her life while raising another family who were unaware of her existence. ‘My music is about my trauma and I think, as much as I’d processed it in the songwriting, the actual real-life scenario of what I was talking about was ever-evolving. And I didn’t have the time to stop and actually reflect and be in therapy. No one really gave me that time to talk about how I was feeling, outside of it being this thing that I’d turn into a song and sell to the masses. My story became a sob story, a commodity and not my life, and that was really tough.’
On top of that, what followed was more than two years of contractual suffocation that meant she couldn’t release any music. ‘My core purpose was stripped away from me,’ Carter explains. ‘And then by the time that was sorted, the overthinking kicked in.’ At that stage, many artists would have given up on the industry altogether – but much like her former label-mate Raye, Carter turned this dark period into fuel for her best music yet.
Last month, five years on since her last project and with a new team around her, the singer independently released her second EP, A Little Lost, A Little Found, which is a brilliant collection of eight tracks that cements her status as one of our brightest homegrown talents. Ambitious and experimental, it takes Carter’s artistry to new heights, constructing an immersive sonic experience that, as with her previous work, is rooted in identity. One of the inspirations she cites is the Euphoria soundtrack, and you can sense that same Labrinth-style boundary-pushing throughout.
Take ‘Pick Your Tears Up’, one of the tracks Carter performed at her Sunset Session and the first single from the EP. Every instrument featured except the percussion was made using her voice, which as a technique feels all the more significant considering that it was the first song written in this new era, the one she says she wrote as ‘a reminder that I was strong enough to pick myself up again’ and gave her back her voice.
‘Riot’, which Carter also performed for members, is another example of this EP’s creative genius. An anthemic track about the racial injustice Black people face, the production swells with emotion, while her formidable vocals take centre stage, supported by the Bass Note Collective choir. The galvanising energy of the song is infectious, and when Carter belts out ‘I’ll never be quiet’ in the chorus, you absolutely believe her. For the visuals, she teamed up with fashion designer Priya Ahluwalia, who is featured in our Soho Future 100 list, to create a short film that celebrates Black joy, community and power – and the result is the most beautiful video you’ll see this year.
While Carter has creative ambitions beyond music, ultimately, she says, her purpose is performance. Having just finished a tour of the UK and Europe, the 26-year-old was reminded that playing shows is by far her favourite part of the job. In fact, when she’s on the road, she makes the most of various Soho Houses around the world. ‘What I really love about my membership is having somewhere nice, that’s familiar, to go while you’re travelling,’ she says. ‘Like in Berlin, while we were in the city on tour, we spent the day at the House. Then in Amsterdam, we stayed in bedrooms at the House, and it was just lovely having that base.’
White City House used to be Carter’s local, but since moving to north west London, she’s found herself gravitating towards Soho. ‘I’m a Greek Street girl now,’ she says. ‘Or the Strand, but I have so many great memories here at White City House. I love coming here with my friends on a nice day and hanging by the pool with a glass of Lady A. I also love Soho Farmhouse so much – I go a bit too often! I love swimming, riding bikes, all the wholesome vibes. And Pen Yen is my absolute favourite. I had the soft shell crab bao bun last time I was there and it was amazing.’
So, with a successful tour and EP under her belt already this year, what’s next? ‘More shows are a must, and then more music – I’m back in the studio already,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to stop putting music out; there was such a large amount of time when I couldn’t and then didn’t release anything. But I’m in a place now where it’s not as scary anymore. I don’t need to overthink it, I’ll just put a song out – and if it doesn’t connect, I’ll move onto the next.’
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